Archive for September, 2020

Haven on the Ridge

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

“Observers should feel that the act of painting was effortless — that it happened, it just happened. Which, of course, is not true.”
— Jane Piper

I’ll be spending more time in the collage studio soon, but I made the most of the warm months to create collage artwork in the open air. Much love and appreciation goes out to my sister, Joan Wood, for hosting a summer plein-air gathering at her wonderful retreat on Kelley Ridge in Garrard County, Kentucky. Since I was the PAACK coordinator for the outing, I decided to set up in a central spot to help me avoid overlooking any of our intrepid participants. The turnout was great, and I had at least one visitor that I wasn’t expecting. A house portrait demands a certain density and exactitude. I left with a good start, but it fell short of the hoped-for level of detail, so I challenged myself to bring it around with an expenditure of studio time equal to what I devoted to the outdoor session.

Cardinal Haven is the name that our mother, Virginia, came up with for Joan’s isolated abode (which spurred the title of this featured miniature). It’s on display right now, as part of the annual group exhibition in downtown Danville. En Plein Air lasts until October 30.

Haven on the Ridge
collage miniature by J A Dixon
50% / 50% — site to studio
7.1875 x 7.1875 inches
private collection

Seventh Chapter: Interpreting an observed world with collage . . .

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

“Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle


(clockwise, from top left) Working at the sunny flowerbed in July. The ‘rig’ that enables me to take the medium of collage outside. The result of my concentrated, on-site attention. Closeup of a marvelous bloom that cast its spell on me.

My thanks to Margo and Russ Goodwin for their purchase during our annual exhibition, En Plein Air. Your sunny garden in July was a perfect spot to paint flowers, which I’d never done with paper before. My appreciation to Donna F for her continuous encouragement, to Katherine W for getting a shot of me with that rig I developed to create collage outdoors, and to Amanda G for taking pity on me with the loan of her handy umbrella. The last image in the grid above is the result of my preliminary work at the flowerbeds — to get a roughly seven-inch square composition. Needless to say, all the time spent studying the surrounding zinnias resulted in minimal pasted paper for the actual blossoms, but stored memories and photo references were sufficient to prime an expressive treatment back in the studio.

As I’ve mentioned before, my objective is to spend fewer hours with the indoor follow-up than I do on location. I’ll usually require “half-and-half” to resolve a solution. Yes, there are those who wouldn’t accept that as a legitimate plein-air piece. It’s a standard cut-off point that we use for our PAACK. It works well for me at this stage of my learning to “paint in papers.” The more important aspect of this journey into natural settings is the clear sense that contemporary collage, an innovation by modern-art painters, may still be largely untapped as a method of visually interpreting the observed world, especially as part of the plein air tradition. Flowers should be a essential part of that adventure.
July Zinnias ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

July Zinnias
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
50% /50% — site to studio
6.375 x 7.3125 inches

•  S O L D